Infiniti pushes its new AWD system in winter conditions

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Infiniti’s upcoming QX60 three-row crossover will, the company says, feature a more advanced version of its active all-wheel-drive system, which it claims is both more compact and quicker to react to changing traction conditions than its predecessor.

“We listened to our customers and we wanted to deliver an all-new QX60 that could perform with confidence in nearly all weather conditions,” said general manager, product strategy and planning, Eric Rigaux. “Our newest Intelligent All-Wheel Drive exceeds our expectations with seamless power delivery, right when the driver expects it – or even before.”

The company’s engineering team has been testing the QX60 throughout North America in some of the most demanding conditions. Cold-weather testing in areas such as Alaska, northern Quebec and Michigan has allowed vehicle engineers to tune and calibrate the new all-wheel-drive system for better responsiveness in slippery and brutally cold conditions.

“I have a love-hate relationship with snow. It’s beautiful when it’s newly fallen and glittering in the sunlight, but it’s also hazardous in those conditions. I’m a very cautious driver, by nature,” said Katie Andersen, vehicle performance development engineer at the company. “When I’ve been testing the all-new QX60, I’m still cautious by nature, but I find that the responsiveness is better than my capability and that gives me confidence in driving. And that’s what’s going to give our customers the confidence they need to head out in all of those conditions.” Beyond cold-weather locales, engineers have tested the QX60 in desert locations such as Death Valley, California, and Moab, Utah.

Contributing to the quicker response of the system is a new direct coupling mechanism that is claimed to engage the rear wheels almost instantly when more grip is needed. Compared with all-wheel-drive systems that utilize electromagnetic coupling, which requires detectable wheel slip to engage, Infiniti uses a host of sensors to predict when more grip is needed.

“The QX60 is really designed to encounter a wide variety of situations with its all-wheel-drive system. Whether it’s deep snow, sand, even packed snow where it’s a bit more slick,” said vehicle performance development manager, Chris Fischer. “If you’re driving in one of these situations, the system will monitor the road surface and very quickly move the power from the wheels that don’t have traction to the wheels that do. What this allows you to do is to continue driving forward with good confidence.”

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology International and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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